27 Feb 2011

Signs of spring.

A wet morning turned into a beautiful sunny, though breezy, spring day on Hilbre. The warmer weather of the last week has sent the islands frog population into a frenzy of reproduction with both freshwater ponds heaving with amphibian reproductive activity.

The stiff breeze seemed to have deterred any movement overhead and most of the avian interest was limited to the island residents and the usual waders. A retrapped Robin showed the first signs of a brood patch - another sign spring is definitely on the way.

A seal hauled out at the north end was identified as a sub-adult Atlantic Grey Seal rather than a Common Seal.

Even Molly felt the need to kick her legs up in the air in tribute to the joys of spring.

Closer to home the feeling of spring intensified with one of the wintering male Blackcaps bursting into song whilst the pair of Canada's on a local pond were briefly joined by another 2 pairs.

23 Feb 2011

Celebrating a pair of Great Tits on Hilbre.

Not quite what those of you with a smutty mind may think but these completed the set of Hilbre tits for me! A quick visit with the Chairman was rewarded with these two caught in one of the heligoland traps.

I've now seen Blue, Coal, Long-tailed and Great Tit on Hilbre! The male on the left was definitely a glossier and greener backed bird than the female on the right.

Saw this article in the Daily Mail yesterday:

Healthy? Relieves stress? Try telling that to the hordes of birders chewing their nails waiting for a major rarity to show itself.................................Inspiring landscapes? They obviously haven't peered through the fence at a landfill site looking for some dodgy gull.

Out and about locally the Nordic Jackdaw was showing but the whole flock have moved back on to the pasture land where the farmer is spraying slurry. Once again I failed to get a single photograph of any corvids let alone one with a white collar. The locally nesting Canada Geese are back though.

19 Feb 2011

Blustery weather

Off to Hilbre again today. Bleary eyed after yesterdays long day and mindful of a high tide I left early and was on the island by 08.3. The weather wasn't very encouraging with 100% cloud cover and a force 4- 5 blowing. At least the local Peregrine brightened up the journey over posing for a photo on the sand.

Not much movement today with only a male Blackbird briefly present before flying off at high tide. A seawatch was rewarding as a male Velvet Scoter was picked up flying with a small group of Common Scoter out towards the green buoy.

Plenty of waders around today wit h13 Purple Sandpipers roostign at the north end and a flock of 16 Ringed Plover roosting with a handful of Dunlin on the west side. Oystercatcher numbered around 5,000 and were their usual noisy bickering selves.

A few Grey Plover were still hanging around and there were plenty of Redshanks, Turnstones and small numbers of Knot.

Apart from the usual Robins, Dunnocks and Wrens resident passerines are still scarce. There were two Rock Pipits hanging around and one was recaptured being unable to resist a free handout of meal worms!

Closer to home Kenny Dummigan found a first winter Glaucous Gull on Gowy tip but by the time I got there the tip had stopped working and all the large gulls had dispersed. Nice one Kenny - I'll keep a look out.

The 'Nordic' Jackdaw is still present feeding on the stubble field but once again the whole corvid flock are very flighty and nervous and resisting all attempts at getting a photo - even the ubiquitous 'record' shot.

18 Feb 2011

A waif from Siberia

News that an Oriental Turtle Dove had been retrospecively identified from photographs in Oxfordshire before Christmas was treated with dismay by birders far and wide! Despite a thorough search by locals it seemed to have disappeared. Roll forward a couople of months and it turns up again in a garden a few streets away!

Plans were hatched but ended in tears. A solo effort was required. Arriving very early in dark I wandered around the surrounding streets to keep warm before finally pitching up outside No. 41 The Leys where the bird had got into the habit of visiting for a free food handout. Not expecting the owner, Steve, to allow people in again I waited on the pavement with two other birders for the bird to fly over and hopefully show in the trees at the back of the garden. More people turned as it was announced we were going to be allowed in! Shit - I'd left the camera in the car. There was no way I was walking back to where I'd parked and perhaps miss getting in to see the bird having missed it once already.

Shoes off and a fiver for good causes and the lucky first group were ushered in to view the garden. As the light intensified I suddenly saw the bird fly into the top of a tall ash at the back of the garden. Nervously we waited but the bird got spooked and flew. Tensions rose but suddenly it was back again preening and biding its time in cover.

Suddenly it flew onto the bird table and from there on to the lawn. What a beautiful little bird. Why had  I not taken the camera with me? All  I got was these crappy shots using the crappy camera on the iPhone.

Since 1889 there have only been 8 records of Oriental (Rufous) Turtle Dove in the UK and only 3 have been of this sub-species orientalis making this a rare bird. Coupled with the fact the majority of records have been short stayers (1-2 days) and on Scottish Islands or in the Highlands it was always going to be popular & I predict a riot over the weekend. Another one struck off my most wanted list..................

13 Feb 2011

Dodgy corvids and the beginning of spring.

Managed to relocate the possible nordic Jackdaw during the week. The corvid flock has deserted the stubble and moved about 1 km away to the smellier delights of a field freshly sprayed with slurry form the local dairy farm. Nice! Another bird was seen elsewhere in Cheshire recently as well as one in Cumbria so it seems there might have been a small cold weather influx of this race.

An early dart Friday afternoon saw me on Hilbre with the 'maintenance team' looking at repairs to be carried out to the sea watching hide. Highlight of our short trip wasn't avian but a pinniped - a Common Seal bobbed around at the north end. Avian delights included 2 Rock Pipits and at least 600 Bar-tailed Godwits.

Saturday dawned still and calm so clutching my newly acquired C permit (the BTO have re-issued my old number so I've probably got the lowest C permit number in existence) I set off for Hilbre arriving at the Obs just after 09.00. There was plenty of movement overhead with Siskin, Chaffinch, Goldfinch and Greenfinch all being noted for the log. Highlight  was a Long-tailed Tit I first heard in the blackthorn scrub and which we later caught in one of the heligoland traps. Not only is this a scarce bird on Hilbre but it was already ringed - my first control! See Hilbre blog for details.

Releasing it back in the trapping area it later worked its way into the Obs garden where it found the lard to its liking!

Besides the usual Dunnock, Robins and Wrens the Hilbre Linnets and Meadow Pipits are beginning to return and the Linnets especially are taking advantage fo the pond for bathing in.

All in all an excellent day and surely the first Wheatear isn't far away? Already Hilbre boasts Snowdrops and Crocus in flower.

6 Feb 2011

Stormy weather and a vistor from the north.

Wet and horrible this weekend! Plenty of activity though. The weekend started well with a possible nordic Jackdaw with 40 -50 of the more usual variety feeding on the local stubble. I first saw this bird a week or so ago when the field was swarming with Rooks as wee but only got a quick glimpse before the birds all flew off. It showed well Friday and Saturday but the whole flock are very flighty. Using the Landrover as a hide I went back to try and photograph it but unfortunately to much human activity meant the birds didn't settle close enough.

Sunday saw me bumping across to Hilbre - the recent gale force winds have churned the sand up into ridge meaning progress is slow. The gale force winds were still evident with gusts of up to force 7 measured.

A sea watch didn't reveal much apart from a handful of Red-throated Divers and a single Great-crested grebe. Returning to the Obs I heard a commotion and noticed all the Oystercatchers and Gulls on Middle Eye were up. Expecting a raptor I ran towards the south end and was stunned to see a 1st winter Glaucous Gull fly close in off the south end and then continue getting mobbed as it flew up the west side.

Most of the waders were roosting in the shelter of the east side & Niffy Bay held a good selection including 11 Purple Sandpipers on Lion Rock. Careful stalking allowed fantastic views.

It was nice to see one of last Autumns colour ringed Turnstones still around.
Keen to get home and watch the mighty Reds beat Chelski for the second time this season I left as soon as I could - only stopping to photograph this Curlew with a runny nose on the way off.

3 Feb 2011

More garden Moorhens.

Four Moorhens still visiting the garden and taking advantage of the free food!
The three originals (2 adults and the one survivor of last years 3rd brood) + another that's appeared from somewhere.

Redwings and Blackbirds are roosting in the bushes surrounding the pond with up to 10 Blackbirds present at dawn and many heard coming in calling at dusk. The Redwings are very flighty and this one was photographed through the window just before it went to roost.